Thursday, April 16, 2009

Subsidies are criticized as encouraging water use during Western drought

The drought in the West has left residents fighting to conserve water since 2007, leaving many critical of farm and water subsidies that they say encourage farmers to use more water. In California and Arizona, hundreds of farmers receive the subsidies. One supports crops such as cotton and rice, which are typically grown in flooded fields. The other offers cheap water for irrigation. "With our weather patterns, with climate change, and our population growth, we've got to look at how we use every drop," said California Rep. George Miller, a Democrat who represents part of the San Francisco Bay area. "We need to take a serious look at policies that encourage economically inefficient and unsustainable uses of our limited clean water supplies."

Subsidy supporters say the crops were around long before the drought, and the programs are necessary for farmers' survival. "I just don't think that taking the No. 1 ag state and drying it up is a good long-term answer for our country. I mean, people need food," Jim Hansen, a California cotton grower whose ranch receives the fourth-largest amount of the state's subsidies, told Garance Burke of The Associated Press. (Read more)

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